In Franz Kafkas fanciful novel The Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning to find that he as been transformed into a beetle. As the story progresses, we can see that Gregors life as a beetle is not all that different from Gregors life while in human form. Because of this we have to ask ourselves Does Gregor Samsa qualify as a human being? I believe that Gregor does not qualify as a human being and had stopped being truly human long before his metamorphosis. Writers and philosophers throughout history have pondered on what it means to be human. One of the most famous, Rn Descartes, declared Cogito, ergo sum I think therefore I am.
But does Gregor meet this criterion; does he think? From the very beginning of the story Gregor emits a certain perpetual calm, his emotions never straying from a composed tranquility. Instead of being astonished or troubled by his transformation, Gregor wants to sleep again for a while and forget all this stupidity (Kafka p.201), as though suddenly turning into a bug doesnt disturb him at all. He only begins to worry when he realizes he is late for work. Gregor truly hates his job, even admitting that it is degrading (Kafka p.202), yet he stays in his miserable position in order to support his whole family and to get them out of debt. Each month Gregor willingly hands over his paycheque to the waiting hands of his family, the action accompanied by no remarkable effusiveness, (Kafka p.219) as though the family expects and even demands Gregors selflessness.
The Samsas eat leisurely breakfasts and take naps in the afternoon while their son is out working an extremely stressful job to support them, instead of a family of his own. In fact Gregor has no social life, staying alone in his room every evening. His only companion is a framed picture of a beautiful woman, and he values it so much that it is the first thing that he wants to salvage when his sister attempts to remove the furniture from his room. Thus we can see that Gregor is alienated in every aspect of his life, even in his own house where he always locks the doors of his bedroom, as if in a hotel (Kafka p.203).
To most human beings this situation would be close to intolerable, yet Gregor seems to have relatively little to say about it. Throughout the story Gregor expresses no strong emotion about his family, his work, or his life in general. In fact, he engages in almost no personal introspection, a quality that we associate with being human. So we can say that Gregors metamorphosis seems just like a logical metaphorical progression in Gregors life.
The people around him already treated him like a bug, and Gregor was unfalteringly faithful, like a worker drone. After his transformation, Gregors family continues to treat him horribly, locking him alone in his room. Under the pretext of helping him, Gregors sister Grete, brings him rotten food to eat and removes the furniture from his room, further dehumanizing him. And by the end of the story Gregor lives in perpetual dust and grime, for no one in the Samsa family has the time or the patience to clean the room of the person they once called brother and son. Yet Gregor, though only a bug, is faithful and loving towards his family till the end, relishing every contact with them, such as when his sister plays the violin. But, over the months, the Samsa family grows more and more disgusted with Gregors presence till once evening Grete breaks down, crying We must find a way to get rid of it it must go! (Kafka p.238/239) Gregor, finally realizing that no one has ever or will ever treat him with any respect, love, or kindness, painfully crawls back into his room and dies completely alone.
When he hears of Gregors death, Gregors father, who has long since stopped treating Gregor like a human being, let alone his son, proclaims We can thank god for that! (Kafka p.241) And the Samsa family, now rid of the horrible stain that was Gregor, gaily goes off for a picnic in the countryside. We can see, then, that the metaphor of Gregors transformation into a dung beetle expresses his lack of humanness. Kafka creates this outrageous story in order to clearly portray what a dehumanizing life Gregor has, and how it ultimately leads to his sorrowful death. Gregors metamorphosis draws immediate attention to alienation and degradation in Gregors life, and raises important issues about family and society.